Sharon voters turn back proposal to renovate school

Treasurer Deb Jones, left, and Selectboard Assistant Nicola Shipman, right, look in as Town Clerk Catherine Sartor, center right, checks Jones's husband Jack in to vote on a $9.5 million school bond vote at the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Jack Jones brought his unopened mail-in ballot and was able to fill out and cast the ballot in person after Sartor verified him against the voter rolls. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Treasurer Deb Jones, left, and Selectboard Assistant Nicola Shipman, right, look in as Town Clerk Catherine Sartor, center right, checks Jones's husband Jack in to vote on a $9.5 million school bond vote at the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Jack Jones brought his unopened mail-in ballot and was able to fill out and cast the ballot in person after Sartor verified him against the voter rolls. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Assistant Town Clerk Judi Kehoe gathers and alphabetized stack of voter certificate envelopes after the ballots were removed and put in the ballot box to decide on a $9.5 million school bond at the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The certificates will remain on file for two years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Assistant Town Clerk Judi Kehoe gathers and alphabetized stack of voter certificate envelopes after the ballots were removed and put in the ballot box to decide on a $9.5 million school bond at the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The certificates will remain on file for two years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Town Clerk Catherine Sartor retrieves ballots for a $9.5 million school bond vote from a drop box outside the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The ballots were sent to all of the town’s 1,189 registered voters and by mid-day nearly a third of the voters had cast their vote. The bond would fund improvements to Sharon Elementary School including fire protection systems, accessibility, security, heating and ventilation and a permanent addition to replace temporary classrooms. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Town Clerk Catherine Sartor retrieves ballots for a $9.5 million school bond vote from a drop box outside the Sharon, Vt., Town Offices on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The ballots were sent to all of the town’s 1,189 registered voters and by mid-day nearly a third of the voters had cast their vote. The bond would fund improvements to Sharon Elementary School including fire protection systems, accessibility, security, heating and ventilation and a permanent addition to replace temporary classrooms. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-08-2024 1:15 PM

SHARON — A $9.5 million bond for repairs and upgrades to Sharon Elementary School was rejected by voters Tuesday, 271-220.

With 41% of eligible voters participating, residents defeated the ballot measure that would have approved a 20-year loan through the Vermont Bond Bank to fund safety upgrades, heating and ventilation improvements and the construction of permanent pre-K classrooms.

In public statements and interviews leading up to the vote, opponents of the bond expressed concerns about its property tax impacts. If passed, taxes would have increased by about 23 cents per $100 of assessed value, or roughly $715 for a $300,000 property, for the first year of the loan, according to estimates published by the School Board.

“We will likely be setting up a special meeting next week for the board to talk about next steps,” School Board Chairman Will Davis said Wednesday.

Davis thanked the town clerk and other town staff for “all the work they did to mail ballots and administer the vote.”

Sharon Elementary serves 165 students in grades pre-K-6. Since its launch in 2012, the pre-K program has been housed in two temporary, modular classrooms that were built in the 1980s. The School Board seeks to move those students under the same roof as the other grades, which is not currently feasible due to space limitations.

The suspension of Vermont’s school construction aid program in 2007 has resulted in years of deferred maintenance that present increasing challenges for districts statewide. In February, a task force report on school construction aid presented to the state Legislature identified at least $300 million in urgent facilities needs within the next 20 years.

A $99 million bond to fund the complete replacement of the Woodstock Union Middle and High School buildings was rejected by voters on Town Meeting Day in March.

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As failures in the structural integrity of the current buildings create increased work for the facilities staff, the school district’s leadership is weighing its next steps.

“We are currently pricing out three options and will have real costs by our next board meeting in June,” Mountain Views School District Chairwoman Keri Bristow said by email Tuesday. “The board plans to make a decision by mid-June about “which option we want to go forward with and bring to voters.”

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.